around 1220, evident in 1232: First church building on present site
1265-1279: Building of an early-gothic hall church with three naves
1290: Beginning of modification into a three-nave gothic basilica with ambulatory chapel
1398: Building of transept started
1454: Completion of the church in its present form
The Hanseatic City of Rostock emerged from three earlier independent settlements, each with its own church, starting with St. Peter’s (Petrikirche) at the end of the 12th century. St. Mary’s church was first noted in 1232, and another settlement was developed around St. Jacob’s church (Jakobikirche, lost in WW II).
The Early-Gothic Hall Church
When three cities completed their union in 1265, St. Mary’s was selected as the main church. Immediatly after that, the church was redesigned as a three-nave hall church (following models from Westfalia). Building was completed in 1279, and today’s tower basement and the western halls are the remains of it.
Starting in 1290, the church was being enlarged and modernized. A new quire was built at the East end, which is the front section of today’s church. A surrounding ambulatory with chapels was added.
The Basilica Redesign
Like in other places of the Baltic region, this design was inspired by the “mother church of all brickstone gothic churches”, St. Mary’s of Lübeck. The vaulting of the central nave was heightened up to 31,5 meters. The side naves have a height of 15 meters.
From around 1290, a 4-ton bell (“Bürgerglocke”), and the precious bronze font are preserved.Around 1398, the building of the transept was started. From outside, this section can be noticed by the alternating layers of green/brown glazed and red unglazed brickstones.
In 1419, Rostock University, the first in Northern Europe, was founded. A document dating from 1420 notices altars in the side naves, which means that they must have been completed at the time.
The rebuild of the tower front was started as a double-tower layout, but the building ground was to weak for it, so the present solution with a “hood” was made instead. In 1454, the new vaults were completed.
Reformation and Modern Times
In 1531, Rostock turned to protestantism following, lead by St. Peter’s pastor Joachim Slüter. Many works of art, e. g. side altars, were dismantled or put out of use during the process. The side chapels, which have been the chapels of several trade and craftsmen unions, were converted to grave chapels during the following decades.
From the baroque era, the interior painting (restored) was retained. At certain spots, mediaeval paining is visible. Between 1721 and 1770, some important works of art where added with the high altar and the decoration of the Western wall with the archduke’s chair and the organ. In 1796, the tower’s tent roof and the spire above the crossing did receive their present form.
During the 19th century, the church was renovated. In 1899, it passed its function as university church to the Abbey of the Holy Cross (today part of the Municipal Museum of Arts and History). From its beginning until 1945, St. Mary’s was the church of the City Council, too.
World War II has brought severe damage to the city by several anglo-american air raids from 1942 to 1945. Thanks to the Friedrich Bombowski, churchwarden in those days, and his daughter and some more helpers, the church was preserved from burning down, and today it is the only one of the larger Rostock churches, which was not destroyed by fire. (St. Peter’s and St. Nicholas’ lost their vaults and the complete interior, St. Jacob’s was lost as a whole).
The Fall of the Inner-German Border
During the autumn of 1989, thousands of citizens gathered within the peace prayers an Thursdays, to pray for the renewal of the society, and to express “forbidden” thoughts and points of view within a safe space. Many of those prayers have been led by Joachim Gauck, then pastor of the parish of Rostock-Evershagen, the later president (2012-2017) of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Today: Restoration and Maintenance
In the decades of the German Democratic Republic, repairs and maintenance of the church had to be reduced to a minimum, due to the socialist government and the lack of materials.
After the German reunion in 1992, a major restoration process was started. The Association of Supporters of Rostock St. Mary’s Church has conducted many efforts to prevent the church from further detereoration. The programme is scheduled until 2018 and it is funded by the Federal Republic of Germany, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state, the Hanseatic City of Rostock, “Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz” (German Heritage Foundation), the Lutheran Diocese of Mecklenburg and many other institutions, foundations and private donators. Most of the ongoing work is just of preservative character, a thorough restoration of the works of art is still beeing awaited.
Thanks from the parish to all the supporters!